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article imageEssential Science: Gut microbes cause your blood pressure to rise

By Tim Sandle     Feb 6, 2017 in Science
Unhealthy gut microorganisms can trigger a rise in blood pressure and this can trigger the unhealthy effects of hypertension, according to new research. The research further reinforces the role the balance of human microorganisms play in disease.
The human microbiome is intricately tied to health and disease. The microbiome refers to the range of microorganisms found in association with a given ecological area; in terms of human health the most important niche is the human gastrointestinal system. For example, in a previous Digital Journal Essential Science column we looked at how the availability of intestinal nitrogen to the microbes found in the gut, and higher nitrogen levels correlate with a healthy body.
It also stands that a greater understanding of the human gut microbiome could see probiotics used to alter the microorganisms of the gut in order to modulate behavioral responses to stress.
New research highlights hypertension
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The latest research considers blood pressure and gut microbes. This is based on how the microorganisms residing in the intestines can play an important role, where the balance is wrong, in the development of high blood pressure in rats. The researchers behind the recent examination are concerned that the same effects could be seen with people.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a long term medical condition where the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated. Often no symptoms are apparent. However, when it persists for a long-period of time, high blood pressure represents a significant risk factor and it is linked with coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, vision loss, and chronic kidney disease.
Medically, hypertension is described as either primary (the majority of cases), which relates to life-style cases such as a diet too rich in salt or being overweight. With secondary cases, the high blood pressure is an indirect result of a specific disease, such as chronic kidney disease, a narrowing of the kidney arteries, or as a consequence of the use of birth control pills.
Investigating rodents
For the new research, medics from the University of Houston looked at two groups of rats. With the first group, these rodents were reared so that they had high blood pressure (so-called "hypertensive" rats). The second group were kept so that they had normal blood pressure. Once the rats reached maturity, the researchers removed a portion of biological material from the large intestine from the rats in both groups. Then rats in both groups were given a course of antibiotics over a ten day period (where the aim was reduced the natural microbial content of their guts).
H. pylori is a helix-shaped (classified as a curved rod  not spirochaete) Gram-negative bacterium ab...
H. pylori is a helix-shaped (classified as a curved rod, not spirochaete) Gram-negative bacterium about 3 μm long with a diameter of about 0.5 μm.
Institute for Systems Biology
Once the course of antibiotics had elapsed, the researchers used fecal transplant methods to transfer microorganisms from the hypertensive rats to the rats assessed as having normal blood pressure rats. Conversely the general microbial content of the normal group was transferred to the rats that made up the hypertensive group.
The outcome of this cross-examined was that the normal blood pressure group of rats given the microorganisms from the hypertensive rats went onto develop elevated blood pressure. However, the rats with high blood pressure that were administered with microorganisms from the normal group did not experience a significant drop in blood pressure.
The outcome seems to provide additional evidence of the role that the human microbiome plays with health and disease. More specifically the findings suggest that continued study of microorganisms in relation to the development of hypertension in humans is important. Further research should, according to the researchers, support the examination of the use of probiotics as treatment for hypertension.
The new research has been published in the journal Physiological Genomics. The research paper is titled “Alterations in the gut microbiota can elicit hypertension in rats.”
Essential Science
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last we weighed up the latest data from NASA and predicted what landing on the surface of Pluto might be like. The week before our subject was, post-Ebola, a review of the next potential viral threats facing the planet.
More about microbiome, Microbiology, Hypertension, Blood pressure, Medical